Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Desperate mothers turn to home births

Meltdown of public hospital obstetrics in NSW

MIDWIVES in New South Wales public hospitals are supervising the labour of up to three women simultaneously because staff numbers have not kept up with the nation's baby boom. Overcrowding, lack of birth options and the closure of many rural obstetric services is forcing women into home births.

The Daily Telegraph reported yesterday at least four babies had died during home births in the last nine months and another four suffered possible brain damage. One of those babies was born without the assistance of a doctor or a midwife in contravention of NSW policy which requires two midwives to be present at a home birth.

The Australian College of Midwives said chronic understaffing had turned maternity departments into factories where women were left alone in labour as midwives ran between birthing suites. The overcrowding and inability to constantly monitor women giving birth has increased the intervention and caesarean rate, spokeswoman for the college Associate Professor Hannah Dahlen said. Thirty one per cent of babies in Australia were delivered by caesarean compared to the OECD average of 22 per cent. In private hospitals the rate is 41 per cent.

The college said the factory-like treatment of women in labour was one reason they were turning to home births. Clinical director of women's health at Westmead Hospital Dr Andrew Pesce said pregnant women must get continuity of care from the same doctor or midwife through pregnancy. This option was available to just 3 per cent of pregnant women in NSW.

Meanwhile, crucial maternity services are being cut across regional NSW forcing expectant mothers to choose alternative birthing methods including home births.

Heavily pregnant women are being forced to travel up to two hours for antenatal care or for birth as many services have either being downgraded or have closed their doors across the state. There are plans to cut four midwife positions at Port Macquarie while antenatal classes could be axed at Kempsey after more than 20 years under a staffing review of the North Coast Area Health Service.

On the Far South Coast, Pambula Hospital is closing its maternity service and merging with Bega, which had caused community anger. In the Southern Highlands, there are plans to downgrade maternity services at Bowral Hospital. Blue Mountains Hospital is constantly opening and closing because it cannot get an obstetric anaesthetist.


More neglect from NSW child protection workers

DOCS failed to heed carer's pleas over troubled teenager. They are just bureaucrats. They don't give a sh*t about anybody or any thing. Only publicity moves them

THE Ombudsman has started an investigation into how a deeply troubled 15-year-old girl was forced to remain in the care of a family friend even though the friend pleaded with the Department of Community Services for five months to remove the girl.

The girl was offered short-term accommodation with the family friend after she was treated in hospital after a suicide attempt. Instead of staying a weekend with the friend and her three children, the girl's stay lasted months.

Her family friend, a single mother, was not a foster carer and had not undergone any police checks or training before the department sought a court order to allow the girl to receive long-term care from the woman.

The department told the woman there had been a complaint against the girl, alleging she had sexually assaulted another patient while in hospital but, after an investigation, no charges had been laid.

The girl, who has a severe mental illness and a history of sexual abuse, was suspected of physically and sexually abusing her carer's young children while she stayed with them.

Despite the woman's constant pleas for help, the department did not intervene. In desperation, the woman called the Foster Carers Association, which reported the case to the department. The girl was removed.

The Opposition spokeswoman on community services, Pru Goward, said the department was negligent in failing to intervene and had turned its back on the woman, who was not qualified to cope with a teenager with such complex mental problems.

"The department is clearly in such disarray that it has ignored the pleas of a desperate woman who was concerned about the behaviour of a child who is in the minister's care and the affect of this behaviour on her own children," Ms Goward said.

"I understand the children told their mother that the foster child had frightened and abused them and the mother was so concerned she had hidden kitchen knives, fearing for the family's and the girl's safety."

A spokeswoman for the department said there had been two home visits and phone calls from caseworkers when the girl was in the woman's care, which had started as an informal arrangement between the girl's natural mother and the carer. "DOCS counsellors and teachers are continuing to work closely with this young person to give her the support she needs at this difficult time," the spokeswoman said.

The spokeswoman said the department would contact the carer to discuss the matter further. "Recent accusations made about assaults to the carer's children are being followed up by the department."


Rudd's popularity seems Teflon-coated

By Andrew Bolt

It’s over for Malcolm Turnbull - but the time for a fresh leader is not yet:
KEVIN Rudd’s mid-air outburst at a female RAAF cabin attendant has done nothing to dent the Prime Minister’s popularity, which has soared to near-record levels as Malcolm Turnbull’s rating has hit a new low…

Mr Rudd’s satisfaction rating jumped by five percentage points in the latest Newspoll, which was conducted (in) a period during which Mr Rudd’s apology for his angry outburst, the outcome of the Group of 20 leaders’ meeting and the imminent arrival of the Government’s $900 stimulus cheques were all headline news....

The two-party-preferred result, based on preference flows at the last election, puts Labor’s lead over the Coalition at 16 percentage points, close to its post-2007 election record high… Mr Rudd is preferred as prime minister by 67per cent of voters, while Mr Turnbull recorded his lowest preferred prime minister rating of 18per cent, down two points on the previous poll.

It isn’t enough to say Rudd is merely profiting from splashing cash that voters haven’t yet realised must be paid back - with interest. After all, his ratings have been high for two years now.

Nor is it enough to say it’s too early to get voters to admit they were wrong at the election. After all, John Howard’s ratings after his 1996 win soon fell.

Rudd’s leave-it-to-busy-beaver act is what nervous voters want. The impression of frantic activity (no matter how misapplied) impresses them, and makes him seem not just in control, but in their control. His nerdishness seems proof of his cleverness. His soothing words count for more than his deeds. And voters are in a dangerous mood to be nannied.

On the other hand, for two years the Liberals have yet to offer a competing vision - and particularly a competing moral vision. Indeed, for too long they failed to offer even an effective criticism of what most needed criticising. They seemed to run from their own legacy. And they were stuck on winning a weekly popularity poll, rather than concentrate on winning - and starting - the important arguments they’d need to win by the time of the next election. Think emissions trading. The first stimulus package. Workplace reform.

The most effective way for the Liberals to announce they’ve changed is to elect a new leader. That’s the easy bit. The second is to elect a new leader who indeed brings that deep change. That’s the hard bit. And all this has to be done not yet, when voters still are believing or hoping that Rudd’s spend-spend-spend comes at no cost, and when the media still has plenty of time to get bored with the new Liberal leader and to tear him down.

For the Liberals, then, its an agony to endure. And a time to plan a revolution, not a criticism. A story, not a line.

The curious nexus that must be broken is this - that the worse it gets, the better for the Prime Minister overseeing it:
There has been a 30 per cent fall in the number of newspaper job advertisements in the past two months and they are now 61per cent below the peak reached in November 2007. ANZ’s head of Australian economics, Warren Hogan, said there had never before been such a fast fall in the jobs market.

The more reckless the government’s guarantees, the safer voters feel:
THE Rudd Government has admitted its venture into commercial property banking may end up costing taxpayers money...


Green Myths About Australian Farming

David F. Smith

Agriculture has a bad name in Australia. We are told that: It has exhausted the soil, and yields of crops have collapsed. It has caused massive erosion. It has polluted some rivers, made many others salty and used all the water from the rest. Its animals make methane, a main cause of global warming. Clearing the land has made too many species extinct. Put simply, we shouldn’t have come here—we should have left it to the Aborigines who were so much more in harmony with the land than we are. Popular writers such as Jared Diamond and to a lesser extent Tim Flannery have written books that widely promulgate such views.

How much of these assertions is loose talk? What is myth? What is the evidence?

Few media people have any concern to get it right. Sweeping statements are reported uncritically, serious errors go uncorrected. Some of the repeating is innocent enough, but much is by people who should know better, such as people with titles like “Environmental Editor”. Too frequently they write to whip up emotions, rather than to inform or educate.

Some statements are made, and repeated, when a little deeper thought shows them as meaningless. Some are valid in a limited context but are given status far beyond this. Some are true, but immaterial. Such as:

• The first Europeans and their descendants have simply tried to do European farming in Australia.

• Native is always best: farm kangaroos rather than sheep and cattle; dig out the roses; mimic nature in managing the environmental problems of our landscapes.

• Australia is the driest inhabited continent.

• The soils of Australia’s agricultural lands are old and poor.

• The European settlers have cut down forests over vast areas and caused massive soil erosion and widespread salinity.

Let’s take them one at a time.

Farming Like Europe

It is often stated that not only were the early European settlers in Australia hell-bent on making a little Europe/England, but also that the farming systems used since are still part of such an attempt and therefore should be abandoned. The argument then goes that many of the environmental problems in the Australian landscape will only be “cured” when farmers cease to farm. One example was Tim Flannery’s Australia Day message in 2002: “most of us live as people from somewhere else who just happen to inhabit—sometimes unsustainably, ignorantly and destructively—this marvellous continent … we have believed we could remake the continent in the image of Europe … force our truculent soils to yield”. Ross Garnaut’s work also has a touch of this attitude.

In fact the new settlers must have quickly realised that they were in a very different land needing new approaches. Just because they brought some familiar, well-tried garden plants from “home” does not mean they eschewed the things that were already here. And we need to remember that they would not have seen their “home” land farming as ideal—Europe had had its share of famine and still had severe shortages of food well into the 1800s. Modern humans, who accept different ideas and technologies—and people—from all over the world naturally also scan the global range for useful plants and animals. Some are pretty, adding to the wonderful variety of things already here—like roses. Some give deeper shade when needed and none when it is not—like plane trees. Some are easier to confine and manage—like sheep, rather than kangaroos.

The settlers were quite prepared to use things native: local trees for timber and honey, their bark for tanning; kangaroos for meat, native fish for food; but above all, native grasses for what was for nearly a century to be their mainstay, the sheep industry. They greatly valued these grasses, and soon called them by local names—kangaroo and wallaby grasses. Research was carried out on how to use them best—as late as 1930 the very first graduate student at the new Waite Agricultural Research Institute in Adelaide studied wallaby grass.

Granted they did not attempt to “farm” the kangaroo or emu—with hindsight, sensibly. Despite the occasional assertion that we ought to do so, for instance by Garnaut and Flannery, the extraordinary movements of kangaroos defy any system to contain them and regulate their grazing, even with the superior technologies of our modern times, and “farming” emus remains problematic in economic terms. Some make much of the kangaroo foot being softer than the sheep—ignoring the enormous damage done by the softest foot of all, the rabbit! It is grazing habit and pressure that matter.

Plenty of aspects of agricultural life in Australia would have constantly reminded the settlers that this was a very different place from Europe. Animals could graze in the open year-round; in Europe they had to be sheltered and fed in barns for several winter months. Moisture shortage was a dominant consideration for crop growth; in Europe it was rarely limiting. Existing vegetation had to be cleared and regrowth shoots killed, stumps dealt with and often stones picked—processes that went on for many years; in Europe the crop was planted into “old” land, long cleared of stones and stumps, farmed for centuries.

From the start, those involved (for example the acclimatisation societies) would have, sensibly, scanned the world, not to imitate and transpose whole systems, but to search for new species and to gather ideas to evaluate and possibly incorporate. Conversely, Australia soon became the place to watch, and many Australian inventions have been used elsewhere. Particularly notable ones are the Ridley stripper in the 1850s, the H.V. McKay grain harvester a little later, the stump-jump plough in the 1880s, the fertiliser spinner in the 1930s, and the corrugated-iron rainwater tank. Israel copied our rain-fed systems, not the reverse.

There was soon a distinctively Australian system for widespread grain growing and, especially since 1900, continual evolution supported by excellent research, now leading the world for drier climates. The first system was especially interesting—and different in almost every way from Europe, perhaps only similar in that the crop was wheat, the staple food of the people. A long log was transported from the coastal forests, sometimes hundreds of miles. A horse team or a bullock team at each end pulled the log through the low scrub, often predominantly eucalypt trees, knocking most down. Axemen followed to cut the odd tree missed. When dry, the debris was burned to kill as much of the eucalypt regrowth as possible. The land was then ploughed—with great difficulty, using a European plough—until in the 1870s a farmer in South Australia invented a stump-jump plough—it rode up and over the stumps, dropping back into the earth. This truly Australian invention led to a greatly increased take-up of land for development, especially in South Australia. It too was exported.

From the 1850s the crop was harvested using another South Australian invention, the Ridley stripper, taking the grain only, leaving the stalks (stubble) which when dry gave a burn hot enough to kill much of the remaining eucalypt regrowth. Stumps were progressively pulled from the ground by the ploughs and sold for firewood to supplement income. After two or three “clearing” crops a fallow-wheat rotation was established, the fallow a way of reducing the impact of soil moisture shortage on the crop (rare in Europe), and also extending the arid boundary for cropping (almost non-existent in Europe).

A little later came the close integration of cropping with sheep farming (not a feature in Europe) and by the 1900s the very widespread use of legume-based pastures which also avoided the costly use of nitrogenous fertilisers (normally used in Europe, even now, and an environmental black mark). Phosphatic fertiliser was spread on the legume pastures using a spinner (another South Australian invention, many units of which were exported to Britain).

In fact, visitors and new arrivals from Britain were critical of Australians for not farming the European way—not ploughing deeply enough, for example. In recent decades came minimum, even zero, tillage, now widespread in Australia, while Europeans tilled on. Australians visiting Europe today are critical of excessive tillage. Use of satellite guidance equipment to minimise impact on soils is very common.

The assertions of Flannery and his friend Diamond that our ecosystems are “farmed out” is ridiculous. Flannery suggests that when taking a taxi in Perth the driver is likely to be a wheat farmer who has abandoned his farm. In fact, well-farmed wheat lands support flourishing farmers and in 2008 Western Australia produced at least half of Australia’s wheat crop.

No critical analyst could claim these farmers were simply imitating or establishing European systems. The frequent repeating of this brings into question the speaker’s knowledge of history and understanding of Australian ecosystems—and analytical capability.

Much more HERE

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